A time for push-back

The office, of one who is often called the most powerful person on the planet, is now filled by someone who believes in force as a way of getting things done. He believes in building walls to keep people out and torture to make people talk.

Waterboarding is “a form of water torture in which water is poured over a cloth covering the face and breathing passages of an immobilized captive, causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning.” “It works,” says the president, seemingly unconcerned whether it is right or wrong to use it.

We are trying to understand what is happening all of a sudden in the world. Politics, in many countries – Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, France, the UK and now the USA, not to speak of Africa and Asia – is rapidly becoming “populist.” This word has been around for a while but is now in constant use to describe a response to people’s gut feelings, in contrast to long established liberal policies, which are perceived to be only benefiting the few. In other words, the grievances people feel against politicians who fail to deliver just and equitable conditions of living for this generation, has been used by unscrupulous leaders to promise change so long as people are willing to “trade in” their hard won freedoms, their human rights, in return.

It is a bleak and depressing scenario and commentators I have read or listened to, while telling us not to lose hope, propose little in the short run to console us. As this situation breaks in on us, I say to myself, “wait a minute, we’ve been here before.” I recall the depression I felt when I first learnt of the global tentacles of multinationals and how they destroy “the corner shop.” Then I learnt of the arms race and the threat of MAD (mutually assured destruction) with people seriously planning nuclear bomb-proof shelters. Then I learnt of climate change and threat of the planet burning up. None of these have been “solved” but there has been colossal “push back” from reflective people organising sustained opposition.

So perhaps this “populism” is just one more global nightmare to confront. Those who resist any powerful movement often begin by finding they are alone or with just a few companions. Every “paradigm shift” in history is the result of reflective people setting out on a journey. They gather friends on the way and gradually things begin to happen. Zephaniah saw great change coming from “those who are left in Israel” (3:13). This “remnant” would be the basis for the new order about to be born. The values of that new order are the opposite of the populism I have described. They are listed (Matthew 5) as poverty of spirit, humility, compassion and a thirst for reconciliation and peace. These values are discarded by the proponents of this new –ism.

It is time to celebrate the men and women who “push back” against this tide – and to join them in whatever way we can, even if our contribution is hidden..

29 January 2017                      Sunday 4 A

Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13           I Corinthians 1: 26-31             Matthew 5:1-12

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